Hotspot: California on the Edge
Marbled Murrelet
Marbled Murrelet
Brachyramphus marmoratus

By 1974, the nesting behavior of all birds in North America was known except for one, the marbled murrelet. This secretive seabird nests in old growth coastal forests. The first occupied nest, discovered in 1974 in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, confirmed the land-sea connection. Murrelets live along a narrow strip of land and water along the West Coast of North America.  All seabirds come ashore to nest, but murrelets are unusual in that their nests are located in dense coniferous forests, 30 miles (48.2 km) inland from where they feed in the ocean. Flights to and from the nest are made under cover of darkness which makes sighting them rare.

Densely compacted feathers provide insulation, and small webbed feet act like powerful slippers for swimming both on the surface and underwater.  Summer plumage is "marbled" brown. In winter, feathers are black, white and gray. Adults may live as long as 25 years.

These birds are experiencing an estimated decline of 4% to 7% per year.
In northern California, only 1400 to 1700 birds remain. 

Habitat Loss
The bird's dependence on old-growth nesting habitat and coastal marine feeding areas brings it into conflict with human activities:

  • Gill-nets trap and drown murrelets
  • Oil spills kill birds
  • Logging in old-growth forest destroys nesting habitat
  • Populations of nest-raiding crows and jays are increasing due to presence of human trash

Global Warming
Climate change affects ocean temperature and fish abundance, which impacts the murrelets’ food source.

Help protect murrelet habitats and learn more about the Audubon Society’s Important Bird Areas, visit:

Audubon Society:

Audubon's Christmas Bird Count (CBC) has helped monitor changes in the numbers and distribution of marbled murrelets. To learn how you can participate, visit:


Above: Marbled Murrelet

Marbled Murrelet


Habitat Loss

Global Warming

What You Can Do

Audubon Watchlist: Marbled Murrelet